A Jas Gripen fighter jet. Photo: Lars Pehrson/TT
Swiss referendum on Jas Gripen deal

Swedish Jas Gripen lobbying leads to political fallout in Switzerland

Switzerland's Christian Democrat Party, CVP, no longer wants to spearhead the Yes-campaign ahead of a referendum which could determine whether or not Switzerland will purchase 22 Jas Gripen fighter jets from Saab. The decision follows hot on the heels of  Swedish Radio News' exposure of Sweden's plans to launch a PR-drive in Switzerland with the apparent purpose of encouraging the Swiss people to vote in favour of the deal on May 18th.

"The fact that our party and individual politicians within our party are being judged and criticised over this is not acceptable," prominent CVP-politician Urs Schwaller told Swiss TV-station SRF.

CVP has apparently interpreted certain formulations in letters which the Swedish ambassador in Switzerland sent to Sweden's Ministry for Foreign Affairs and to a number of Swedish ministers as criticisms. The content of those letters became known to the public after Swedish Radio News reported on them earlier this week.

In Switzerland, a political party often functions as a kind of political sponsor for a referendum campaign, a role which CVP took on in relation to the vote on the Gripen deal, but which it has now abandoned.

"We do not want to be accused of something we are not responsible for," CVP Party Secretary, Beatrice Wertli, told Swedish Radio News.

The party apparently feels that it has been unfairly held responsible for the criticisms voiced in Switzerland after Swedish Radio News' revelations, for instance for the close discussions between Sweden and Switzerland's minister for defence, Ueli Maurer.

CRV continues to back the Gripen deal, but Adrian Arnold, a political reporter at SRF, said that the latest events have somewhat weakened the Yes-side, with voters potentially seeing the Christian Democrats' move as a sign that the Right is no longer united when it comes to the Gripen deal.

The Swiss Ministry for Defence, VBS, did not want to comment on CRV's move and it is still not clear if another party will take over the sponsor role.

Schwaller had a clear message for Sweden, however. He said: "We do not want any meddling from the ambassador, from Sweden or from Saab."

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